Some Thoughts: Little Busters Refrain – Episodes 1, 2 and 3

It Struck without Warning & It was Raining Back Then, Too & I wanted to be here forever

Little-Busters-Kura

AlexI’ll start with this. I know the secret of this world, and I know how this story ends. I’ll try my best not to spoil things or drop too many hints by talking about it, but it’s inadvertible that some things will slip past me – so there are some very heavy spoiler warnings here.

So. Little Busters. Originally, I wrote this work from Key off because it just didn’t start very well, but I found a copy of the VN a few weeks ago and decided that I would read through it myself, to see what I thought of it. And…I didn’t like a large amount of the character routes, save for Kuragaya, both of Rin’s routes and the Refrain route. They made the entire product brilliant through a combination of amazingly clever writing and the mystery and drama that they built up in the previous routes.

And to get to how this relates here, thankfully, the anime adaption of Refrain covers all of the good parts in Little Busters. So i’m going to skip the anime version of the boring stuff in Little Busters and jump straight into the brilliant part.

Starting with Episode 1, it ends up the common route at the start, with a pancake party to celebrate their first baseball game. Everyone’s having fun, and it’s a great moment to get re-aquianted with the anime version of everyone, but even here there are a few really noticeable differences going on, which, in my opinion, actually serves to make the overal experience stronger. It’s tiny little details like the girls spotting Kuragaya, and Riki having that ‘flashback’ after the party…they manage to avoid giving anything serious away whilst making what’ll happen even stronger. However, we’re not as interested in the secret of this world right now are we are with a serious case of bullying, as Kud finds thumbtacks in her shoes and in her bag…and it’s also happening to Komari, too.

Trying to be the hero, Riki obviously feels the need to investigate, and finds three cackling girls who could be linked to the scene. However, here is the first aesthetic change that I don’t like. They changed the role of the suffers – Riki was originally meant to go days suffering, trying to conceal things from Kuragaya so that she wouldn’t get hurt and distance herself. It’s subtracted a little bit of the crucial development around Riki, and even though what happened turned out the same, I can’t help but feel that taking such important development away from Riki is possibly something which could go astray. It’s understandable that they wanted to move on with Kuragaya’s arc, since it’s a relatively long one and they only had three episodes to fit it in,

Though I do like the fact that Riki knew he’d been to the PA room before. It suggests that there’s more to his illness that what’s obviously there, but this is just another example of the creative liberties that they’ve taken in going down this route, whilst keeping some of the best things of the route, as evidenced in how Kuragaya playfully taunted Riki at the start of Episode 2.

I have to tip my hat to the adaption here, though…they’ve been very clever about things. They’re doing a very good job of showing what took hours of writing to get across – Riki’s feelings for Kuragaya and how the world is going out of wack….especially everyone talking at the cards table. The only major difference, and the thing which made the entire experience different, is Rin herself. Granted, it’s a shame they didn’t go ahead with Operation Love Love Hunters all the way through and skipped everyone pratting around, but at least they kept Kyousuke and his loli’s.

They also managed to make the fireworks festival beautiful and emotional, regardless of the fact that they can’t do a blatant Riki x Kuragaya show and need to include the other girls. Granted, it was amazingly different to the initial novel experience, because of how Rin’s been during this entire Kuragaya scenario and how they can’t ship Riki with Kuragaya, even though the entire scenario is designed in that manner. However, it’s time for the gloves to come off for the conspiracy, as nobody remembers the fireworks festival and everyone’s repeating the actions that they’ve already taken.

Judging on the pacing, Episode 3 was where they’d end Kuragaya’s route. With Riki being the only person who seems to remember that the world is falling apart, after talking to Kuragaya, she also has a faint recollection of things. The romance, whilst never fully developed to the extent that it should have been, because of the very nature of the fireworks, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Kuragaya falls for Riki, and Riki falls for Kuragaya. And it’s beautiful. The romance has been created, formed, and come to fruition in three episodes, without anything feeling rushed or out of place. The world is endlessly repeating until it breaks and stops working, like clockwork…they captured the essence perfectly, the dreamlike world that’s falling apart, and Kuragaya’s overpowering emotional willpower to keep the dream going for herself and for Riki. Even as someone who’s seen this route to the end before, watching it like this sheds new light on things, lets me see things which I didn’t think i’d have otherwise noticed. Even reflecting on the past events through Kuragaya’s eyes was something that was truly magical…an experience that is impossible to forget. For someone without emotions, someone without friends, I understand her drive to ensure that things will stay the same, to experience the first times for everything and enjoy them with your whole heart.

However, the thing about her last dream, and the fated time are things which have changed, and as they talk about this whilst ‘Song For Friends’ is playing…well, it’s an amazingly magical episode. It’s Key at one of it’s finest points, at a point which most other animation companies can only hope to achieve and to reach. The interesting thing that I noticed here is that I actually don’t think I would have minded if this was the final of Little Busters, the grand ending. The anime version of those last scenes made things stronger, made your heart ache and made the beauty and magical nature of things emerge at full strength.

They swapped things around to compensate for the fact that unlike a VN, it doesn’t “reset” every time a route is completed, and that they didn’t have the time to include the entire route. Infact, the only change I didn’t like was the fact that Riki wasn’t the subject of the bullying, but all in all, I can’t sing enough praises for this route and how they did things. Perfect is quite a scary word to use, but that is actually what my opinion of this arc was.

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